Article by Polina Wilson
Six Lessons From Three Years Of Working From Home
Three and a half years ago, I packed my bags and moved to California from New York with my husband for a job opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Thankfully, I was able to keep my role as a people director for an incredible adtech company after working for them for a year in the local NY office. It was meant to be a work-from-home trial, but fast forward years, and the trial has proven successful — and I’ve been working remotely ever since.
Never did I think that in 2020 all of my co-workers around the globe would also be working from their homes, parents’ homes, friends’ homes, summer homes or wherever else the pandemic has allowed them to shelter and turn their kitchen desks into work desks. Here are six lessons and strategies I’ve learned over the years to ensure success in working from home.
1. Make yourself seen. When you aren’t in the office, it’s important that you are still seen virtually. Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom, emails, funny gifs — do whatever you need to ensure your voice is heard as often as possible. It’s easier to be forgotten about when you aren’t circling around the cookies and candy in the kitchen, so be sure to put in the effort to make your voice heard.
2. Maintain relationships. The onus is on you to be a part of the conversation. Often, people pull each other into meetings or conversations on the fly, so it’s easy to lose sight of what’s going on in the business. If you’re physically removed from the office, you have to work that much harder to ensure you aren’t accidentally removed from the conversations as well. Check in with your key stakeholders to ensure they feel supported. Likewise, check in with your new hires and anyone else to ensure you are getting a good read on the office temperature.
3. Have predictable availability. Create a standing weekly “open house” where employees can come to you with any questions, insights, concerns or just for a regular check-in. The predictability of this weekly meeting creates an opportunity for you to remind people you are available for whatever they need. Just because you are not (physically) there, doesn’t mean you aren’t there for them.
4. Give prompt responses. When people can’t see that you’re in a meeting or wrapped up with a spreadsheet at your desk, they don’t realize you may be preoccupied with something else when working from home. Keep your response time for email and messages to under 60 minutes (ideally 30), even if it’s a quick response as simple as that you will circle back later in the day. This not only keeps you accountable, but also ensures your colleagues aren’t wondering what you’re doing.
5. Create calendar transparency. Keep your calendar public and up to date with any meetings you have, but also make sure you block out time to show which projects you are working on. This allows colleagues to set aside time with you when you’re available, but also provides proof of your responsibilities and deliverables. It’s important you add visibility to your ongoing projects and initiatives.
6. Don’t burn out. When working for home, you do find yourself with extra time on your hands. Blame it on shorter walks to the bathroom, less coffee and snacking in the kitchen, and, of course, less casual chitchat around weekend plans, new restaurant openings and what’s happening on the newest binge-worthy TV show. It’s natural to feel the need to constantly prove your commitment and diligence, so be sure to maintain a schedule and organize breaks for yourself. You won’t do your best work staring at a screen for six hours straight. So, get up, and get fresh air, or pour yourself a tall glass of ice water. Move around to give your eyes and mind a break from the screen. Also try to stick to your set hours. The work will always be there when you log back in at 9 a.m., so don’t work into the late hours too often because it can become a habit that’s difficult to maintain and eventually break out of.
During the past few months, almost the entire global workforce has been put into the same work-from-home trial as I was a few years back. The results? Some people love it and would exclusively work this way going forward. Others? Not so much. Suburbanites love saving time on their commute. Introverts may love spending time in their safe space at home. Those who burn the midnight oil may be benefitting from more time at home with their families. Others have found the opposite to be true and miss the days of collaborating around a huge table and throwing around ideas with desk mates.
No matter what camp you fall into, one thing rings true: You need to be able to successfully work from home, deliver results and be productive, whether it’s for another few weeks or for an extended period of time down the line. Working from home may not be here to stay indefinitely, but it definitely has a seat at the table for the long term.